Theresa May is attempting to woo the French government with a pledge that Britain will not seek to cherry-pick parts of EU membership after Brexit.
Her pledge came after the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in December regarding the UK’s Brexit negotiations: We will not allow any cherry picking.
The four basic freedoms must be safeguarded – freedom of movement for people, goods, services and financial market products. Only then can there be access to the single market.
Then, on the day of the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech on Brexit on 17 January, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: Britain has chosen a hard Brexit.
May’s clarity is welcome but the days of UK cherry picking and Europe a la carte are over.
But in an article for the French newspaper Le Figaro ahead of her meeting with her French counterpart, Mrs May struck a conciliatory tone on the Brexit negotiations and responded to the cherry picking charge.
As we leave the EU, we will seek the greatest possible access to the European single market through a new, comprehensive, bold, ambitious free trade agreement, she wrote.
This cannot, however, mean retaining membership of the single market.
President Hollande and other European leaders have been very clear that this would mean accepting the four freedoms of goods, capital, services and people and I respect their position.
Britain understands that EU leaders want to continue with the process of integration.
And she continued: We do not, to borrow the phrase, seek to cherry-pick which bits of membership we desire.
Mrs May also highlighted French interest in a good Brexit deal, pointing out that the UK is France’s fifth-largest export market with bilateral trade worth more than €50bn last year.
UK companies are responsible for an estimated 230,000 jobs in France, and French companies for about 370,000 jobs in the UK, she added.
Mrs May also stressed the UK will remain an open and tolerant country and that French people will always be welcome in Britain.
She reiterated her aim of guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals already in the UK, including more than 300,000 French people, and said she hopes France will do the same for Britons living there.
I will make securing this reciprocal agreement a priority as soon as the negotiations begin, because this is in everyone’s interests, she said.
Mrs May and Mr Cazeneuve will also agree to maintain pressure on Russia over its aggressive and destabilising actions in Ukraine.
The PM said she was sure they would agree on the importance of pushing Russia in response to the drastic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine.
Mrs May highlighted vital co-operation on security and defence and said in the wake of horrific terror attacks over the past two years, Britain will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with France as a staunch ally and a great friend.
She added: In this period of change for my nation, Britain may be leaving the European Union as an organisation, but we will be stronger than ever as a dependable partner for our friends in France and across Europe, working to enhance the security and prosperity of all our citizens.
As I said in my first speech as Prime Minister in the British Parliament, we share a firm belief in the values of liberte, egalite and fraternite.
And, together with France, a global Britain will always defend them.